It may as well be attached to the end of my arm. That iDevice – with a battery case. The one with all the apps and all my “connection” to everything. Yes, I’m overly attached to my device. And my body is screaming at me to put the phone down. This weekend, I experimented with not being attached to my phone at all times.
After going to bed Friday night and waking up Saturday morning with shoulder, arm, and hand pain from the repetitive stress of using my device, I decided to give it to my husband. After texting my mom and sister, and making a post on Facebook and Instagram about my experiment (so no one would think I was dead) I handed the phone over to Bill and asked him to hide it from me until Sunday night.
I gave myself permission to check in online with email and social media, but I had to intentionally sit down at my desktop.
And so the experiment began.
Most everyone I know is overly-attached to their device. We see it in public all the time. Faces down into the blue light of a device instead of up and noticing the world and people around them. My husband and I often go to lunch, and both end up looking at our phones. I’m on it while we watch tv, I’ll take it along with a book to the bathtub – the phone wins over the book 90% of the time. Honestly, it is easier for me to tell you where I don’t use the phone than it is to list out all the places I mindlessly & obnoxiously check it. I put it away during movies at the theatre, and I don’t sleep with it under my pillow – but it is on the bedside table.
I have a problem and I know it. And my body has begun letting me know it too. Both shoulders, arms, wrists, and hand joints constantly ache from overuse. I can tell my cognitive abilities and attention span are fried. My thoughts used to be coherent and eloquent and lately, they feel like popcorn. I often talk to my clients about listening to their Inner Whisper… well, mine is screaming:
Put the dang phone down.
Using technology and social media is a large part of my business. I suppose if I wanted to go cold turkey and quit social media I could find another way, but I don’t. What I want to do is change my relationship with my device. I don’t want to be a slave to mindless habits that help me avoid discomfort, and fry my brain. Here is what I noticed during my experiment:
URGES: Holy hell did I have urges. This was about noticing my habit and feeling the discomfort when it arose.
- urges in bed watching tv to research shows I was watching
- urges in bed watching tv to play mindless games
- urges in bed watching tv to check facebook
- urges after lunch at the table – now what do I do?
- urges to look up every question I had in my head – instead of just allow myself to not know.
- urges to check and see if I have attention on social media
- urges when I am bored in the car and bill is driving
- urges to check the political news morning noon and night to see if anything else horrific had happened.
- urges to take photos of my dogs when they are so freaking cute I can’t stand it
- urges to share my thoughts with my “audience.” – really not important thoughts.
It was fairly easy to go without my device for the first day, but when we went to the gym, I wanted it to track my workouts- and listen to my audio-books. Bill gave me the phone and I committed to only those two things. And I kept it in my pocket while on the elliptical (when normally I would have scrolled Facebook). I guess this is technically cheating on my own experiment, and I was intentional – and that is what I wanted. When we got home, the phone went back up for the rest of the night.
- I felt like writing.
- I was able to read 44 pages of a book in one sitting
- I was able to give attention to developing thoughts for work
- I paid full attention to the documentary I watched on Netflix – I caught every small nuance and detail
- My arms, shoulders, and hands did not hurt
- Bill and I made eye contact a lunch and carried on a conversation
- Instead of being on my phone at night in bed, I was more cuddly with my husband when we watched tv
- I felt more intentional and present
While I didn’t make drastic changes in my life this weekend, I did make some small shifts, that I intend to make more permanent. I’ve decided to keep my phone and charger in the kitchen instead of the bedroom. I don’t need to be aimlessly scrolling and surfing apps at night while having cozy time with Bill and the dogs. I didn’t miss anything on social media. I was able to check in from my computer and didn’t need to linger. Again, it felt intentional instead of wasteful. I didn’t miss any important phone calls, texts or emails. Most of all my body has already started to recover from the excessive use. No longer do we have tennis elbow- instead it is iPhone thumb and arm and shoulder.
The not so obvious and yet, crucial awareness I came to was how I use my phone to outsource discomfort in everyday life. Being present with my urges, desires, and boredom was helpful, soothing even. It gave me the opportunity to drop into my own being just a bit more intentionally and with compassion.
As I start the work week, I have a greater awareness, my body feels good, and holy shit – I wrote a blog post! Something I haven’t done in ages. I know I want to live a SOUL-FULL life, and being attached to my device most of the time….has been sucking my soul, so I am committed to making some shifts in the way I use my device.
Have you tried any digital detoxing? What were your insights? And if you use your device or social media for work and client creation and connection, how do you maintain intentional balance? I’d love to hear from you.